The cost of business application downtime is rising rapidly primarily because companies are dependent on data and technology. Downtime frustrates users and negatively impacts service providers’ credibility and financial performance. To understand the costs better consider the following example.
In June 2016, Amazon, the world’s premier online retailer, suffered a technical glitch that left its website inaccessible for approximately 13 minutes. The outage cost Amazon $66,240 per minute or nearly $2 million in lost sales revenue. Amazon determined there were five primary reasons for the loss:
■ Lost business opportunities due to unsuccessful transactions during the downtime
■ Lost productivity such as inventory update failure
■ Eroded customer confidence that turned potential customers away from Amazon and toward other competitors
■ Financial and SLA penalties because of the failure to deliver on the guaranteed uptime
■ Damaged reputation which resulted in a drop in Amazon’s stock price
Companies have no foolproof way of knowing when there is going to be a technological malfunction. For example, in January 2017, thousands of travelers in airports across the United States were stuck for hours due to a technical glitch that affected U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) systems. Of course, the incident caused frustration for airline employees and travelers alike.
Similarly, in July 2015, NYSE, the world’s largest stock exchange, the Wall Street Journal website, and United Airlines all experience failures on the same day due to technical issues. This brought stock trading to a halt, shut down websites and grounded flights all over the United States.
All IT organizations need to take preventative measures to reduce the chances of being victims of a catastrophic crash like this. One preventative measure is to implement an IT automation solution for business applications. A modern workload automation solution can ensure reliable and successful IT operations. For example, automation can provide pre-built integrations to simplify the connections between different applications and technologies. This almost eliminates the chance of a manual error and allows for simplified, coordinated workflow creation and maintenance.
Shanghai Disney Resort, the newest and largest Disney theme park in Asia, annually hosts 25 million park visitors that expect a magical and safe experience. The park takes no chances with public health consequences such as contamination of the park’s water supply. The resort runs water monitoring and control systems that provide continuous availability. The systems rely on an automated software system to track, control and analyze the equipment that manages water flow as well as data measuring water quality. Even brief unplanned system downtime could lead to water contamination and turn a nice day at the park into a public health nightmare.
Benefits of Automation
System automation reduces the dependency on human operators to take corrective action if a technical glitch were to occur. Instead, corrective measures are managed automatically by the system, which reduces downtime significantly and ensures the uninterrupted running of the business.
As captured in Figure 1 below, there are five primary benefits of operations automation: cost reduction, productivity, availability, reliability and performance. If we apply these benefits of system automation to the Amazon case above—or any case for that matter—the financial losses would be reduced because downtime is reduced and there would be fewer failed transactions. The technical glitch might even go unnoticed if the system is repaired automatically.
Figure 1: The Five Primary Benefits of Operations Automation
Automation helps recover the systems without human intervention which reduces applications downtime and users have a better service experience. As the quality of the service improves, the associated costs are reduced.
With the help of a defined automation policy, automation software executes jobs precisely and in the correct sequence eliminating operator error, which in turn improves business productivity.
With the high volume of real-time cloud resources being used by businesses today, the outage of key systems can cost millions of dollars in lost revenue and tarnish a company’s reputation very fast. Automation software monitors the behavior of running applications or other components continuously. If a failure occurs, the software restarts applications automatically or moves them to other high availability servers for an uninterrupted user experience.
Off-shift operations include some of the most boring, repetitive and error-prone tasks within the IT organization. By removing the human factor and automating the tasks, it is possible to eliminate most of the batch-processing errors. Automated operations ensure that jobs are not forgotten or run out of sequence, prerequisite jobs are completed successfully, the input data is correct and any special processing is performed.
Every company wants the enterprise to perform like a thoroughbred. Automation ensures fast and automatic recovery from system failures, which means less downtime and higher performance for running applications.
The Future of System Automation
System automation is already part of IT operations across many industries, including banking, e-commerce, healthcare, credit agencies, insurance and many others. Automation has helped companies run services uninterrupted with higher reliability that keep customers happy and loyal.
Automation can replace at least some work in almost all industry sectors, according to a 2017 McKinsey & Co. research report. Figure 2 ranks the potential for automation within 19 major sectors.
Figure 2: The Technical Potential for Automation Across Sectors
Source: McKinsey & Company
Almost every industry the McKinsey study looked at had some aspect that could be automated.
Some of the most recent technologies, such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, robotics, virtual and augmented reality also use automation in one or other way for repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Going further, more industries will benefit from the system automation as it performs repetitive work in dramatically less time than humans with more precision. Automation also reduces the recovery time of operations where human maintenance can be replaced by automation such as in the automotive, entertainment and manufacturing industries. More and more companies across all these industries will benefit greatly by taking advantage of system automation in 2018 and beyond.